One of the more remarkable of the demographic facts is that teen mortality is largely due to risky behavior. This risky behavior is also reflected in more accidents, more violence, and more overindulgence in binge drinking by college students.
This is particularly true with regard to young men; somewhat less for young women. As a matter of fact, some sociologists speak of a "young male syndrome" to refer to the heightened levels of violence, crime, and risky behavior associated with young adult males.
Why is this late teen-early young adulthood period marked by so much risky business? The answer may ultimately be neurological.
The brain does not mature evenly. The prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions of the brain to attain full maturation. The prefrontal cortex controls some of the so-called “executive functions” of the human prefrontal cortex as:
1. The ability to sustain attention;
2. The capacity for long-range planning and problem-solving;
3. Weighing the possible consequences of one's actions;
4. Controlling one's impulses and refraining from inappropriate behavior;
5. Developing a capacity to give up short-term rewards in favor of longer-term goals (delaying gratification);
6. Modulating intense emotions;
7. Being open to a greater range of information when dealing with complex problems.
Now this prefrontal cortex tends to be fully mature by about age 25 or so. Unfortunately, the period of time preceding it is often the time when the person makes major life decisions.
This may in part explain the seeming aimlessness of college freshmen; their impulsivity, their delay in selecting a college major, and so forth. College freshpersons are seen as wild, even by their upper classmates!
Unfortunately, this inclination towards impulsiveness and not looking at the big picture is present during the stage of life when the person is often making life-changing decisions: selection of an occupation or career, marriage, taking risks, or so forth. For example, some fraternity boys at the University of Tennessee discovered last year a new method of alcohol intake: rectally. They called this bizarre behavior "butt chugging."
Don't do this. Okay?
3 hours ago